Running Faster to Slow Down

Wanyi Liang


This is a story about recovery. A pair of black running shoes brings together disbelief, endurance, and self-care. This journey is based on Wanyi’s personal experiences. She has no doubt there are others who have had different experiences from hers, so please keep that in mind when reading her story.


Once upon a time, there was an adventure to find the answer to a riddle: How could something make a happy person sad and a sad person happy? What could this thing be? And why would such a thing exist?

The year 2022 marked my eighth year in Canada. It was a complicated year for me. There were several things I was supposed to accomplish, including getting a master’s degree, being excited to find a job, and applying for my parents’ sponsorship. But none of these goals quite worked out. The gravity of these unachieved accomplishments was palpable.

I started doubting myself. Okay, screw it if life decides to screw me. But where was the switch to flip so I could restart? I just couldn’t escape from the ripple effects of those unrealized goals. Life seemed not to accommodate my desire. Should I just let it be? Fight back? Or let it surprise me and see what I can do? Pressure and failures insidiously clouded my mind and ate away at me.  

I started seeking help. However, seeing a psychiatrist is often plagued by negative responses from others, sometimes even family members. I didn’t know how to explain my experience to others or tell people about it, and I knew that my parents would’ve preferred to see me seeking help from a psychic rather than a psychiatrist. Back home, only “abnormal” people need psychiatrists.

My own anxieties about goals create an internal dialogue with the objective me. These intimate and imaginary conversations just push my mind to the edge of self-doubt and irrationality. However, in 2022, with all my plans on the horizon, the aspirational model that I had once found in my past suddenly became less desired and more daunting. 

My therapist suggested that I start jogging on a trail. So, I started running. I wanted to gain some control back. 

One day, I walked into a shoe outlet and noticed a “for sale” price tag right in front of a pair of shoes that caught my eye. Lack of funds limited my options. I doubted if these shoes could help me run farther and faster, but they were all I could afford, and I sort of liked their design…

Although they did not appear to be steady, they steadily supported me and relieved my anxiety. They accompany me while I run,  from one kilometre to ten kilometres. They help me run fast while reducing my anxiety. They help me gain trust in the process, celebrating my failures instead of running away from them. 

They remind me that life is a slow, steady climb. What’s in the past stays in the past, not now, not the future. 

I had always felt the need to live with expectations. I kept trying to find out why I experienced burnout and found it difficult to pull myself together. To become resilient, I had been pushing through difficult times and trying to change my perspective. But I had forgotten to recover, until it was too late and I hit the wall.

I’m not the same protected and dependent girl that I was eight years ago. I’m in a place where I belong and try to be myself. I’d like to give myself a pat on my back and say, “Thank you for being yourself.” These eight years turned me into a different person.

My running shoes have supported me with and without my attention. The closest interaction I have with them is when I tie them on my feet and untie them after running. Indeed, I engage with them throughout the journey. They are visible to my eyes but invisible to my heart/mind.

All pressures and expectations melt away in the midst of the whispering green leaves and chirping birds.  

Life can be complicated and overwhelming, and sometimes I want to flee. But I can’t. So I run. Running has taken me through many rounds of honest investigation. 

And although I cannot run away, I can run for myself. 

Wanyi Liang is an immigrant from South China and a graduate student in sociology at York University. Over the past two years, she has worked as a volunteer at The People’s Pantry and has become interested in community services for studies and career planning. Reading and writing are Wanyi’s favourite activities. The Shoe Project has helped her regain her writing power.

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